Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Has All the Compassion Gone?

Hi guys-

I wanted to talk about something that seriously bugs me. I have lived a vegan lifestyle for more than 25 years and people rarely knew it. I always told myself it was because I hate labels, so ‘macrobiotic,’ ‘vegan…’whatever was off my list of things to call myself.

But that’s not entirely true…actually not true at all. Having lived as part of both of these communities for many years, I think it’s time to have the discussion about compassion, a word thrown about by both vegans and macrobiotics that seems to have little to do with the actual living of the lifestyle.

In macrobiotics, we say that by living this way, we are choosing to create a bigger life, one steeped in ancient wisdom, compassion and freedom of choice. And yet, I repeatedly see a kind of ‘them and us’ attitude that excludes anyone not of the same mind as us. I was always taught that, in accordance with macrobiotic thinking, we are all part of one whole…all connected to each other and that what happens to one, happens to all.

So why the exclusion of anyone not choosing this life? How can we ever hope to achieve ‘oneness’ if we continually set ourselves up as superior and better because we choose to eat brown rice. Do we really think we are better, smarter, on the fast track to enlightenment? How can we ever hope to attract people to our gorgeous lifestyle if we refuse to let them in because they don’t know or understand it.

And then there's vegan, another label I proudly wear…except when people are yelling at other people for their choices. When books like ‘Skinny Bitch’ can thrive, where has compassion gone? I cringed my way through all the books in this series and realized that they were quite successful in conveying their message…that you are a fat and stupid waste of skin if you are not vegan. Really? These Dr. Phil-like authors set themselves up as paragons of virtue and goodness as they demean their fellow humans. There is enough in life to make us feel badly about ourselves. We certainly don’t need former models adding to our misery.

As a committed vegan, I am deeply concerned about the way we treat our animals…and how we produce them for food. If we think for one moment that farming and producing more than 10 billion animals for food annually can be done in a compassionate, healthy and humane way, then we are more out of touch with reality than I feared.

But I also care deeply for human health. As vegans or macrobiotic people who say they are committed to health…human health, planetary health and spiritual health, how can we justify reserving all of our compassion for animals and serving up only disdain for people? How can we hope to enlighten people and help them to see when we are constantly blinding them by shaking our fingers in their faces? How can we hope to achieve harmony when we care only for the welfare of some animals and not for the welfare of others (humans, for example…).

Most vegans tell me that I am not ‘vegan enough’ for their taste because I refuse to spray paint people who wear fur (as gross as that is to me…); I don’t protest with violence; I don’t feel contempt for anyone not playing in my sandbox.

I prefer the philosophy of catching more bees with honey (pun intended…). If we are peaceful, attractive, inviting and open to all we meet, do we not stand a much better chance of them hearing what we have to say and thereby effecting greater change? Seriously, who wants to be scolded? And who wants to scold? It’s exhausting to be so self-righteous…for us and those who must endure us.

For me, the time of ‘them and us’ is over. It’s time for all those who live compassionate lives to show their fellow humans the same compassion we show to cows, pigs, chickens, puppies and kittens. Compassion opens the door for understanding and with understanding people can…and will…make better choices. But they can’t…and won’t…if they are constantly under attack, made to feel that they are inferior to we more ‘enlightened’ types and left feeling that they are less than worthless.

Compassion is not selective, but the gift of all sentient beings to each other.



christea said...

Hi Christina ~ We do live in a frustrating culture. We are a melting pot of ethnicities, values, upbringing, etc. At the heart of it all is that everyone wants to be valued and accepted. Part of that, which is what you do so well, is meeting people where they are at and living your life by example and being so generous with your life lessons aka "wisdom". I believe that is the very best any of us can do. Attracting more flies with honey is akin to overcoming evil with good. We are one human race living on one planet with one Mother Nature. I am in the process of giving up all negativity to a higher power. Sophia Loren once said, "you wear your attitude on your face". I've witnessed that with numerous people. I don't care what you eat, how much you weigh, or what your social status is in this culture: we do wear our attitude on our face. As my Dad used to say, "Don't let the A**holes get you down". Keep being your positive, informative, funny, fabulous YOU! You enrich so many lives on so many levels. You Go Girl!

christea said...

PS.. the what you eat, what you weigh comment .. we live in a food phobic, fat phobic, nutritionally illiterate, mostly farming illiterate, Madison Avenue media driven culture. I passionately care about preserving Mother Nature's food soil web and the humane treatment of animals and getting this info out there to people. You do it so well and so articulately.

Jenn said...

I know you're right, but after reading Skinny Bitch in Jan 2008, I went home and threw out all my cheese. I wasn't even vegetarian at the time, but have been vegan ever since.

Did I like being yelled at? Not really, but they definitely got the point across.

Gweithgar said...

Thank you, Christina. I've been wanting to thank you for being such a good influence for me. Your positive energy and down-to-earth approach to vegan macrobiotics are so refreshing, and your books and television show have really helped me find my way into this way of eating/being.

I am also "not vegan enough" for the more-vegan-than-thee group. I come from a farming background here in the Dairy State (although I am no longer farming, myself); I'm a fiber artist and work with all fibers, including animal fibers. (I strive to obtain fibers only from animals that are raised humanely.) I "get it" about the evils of factory farming, and I do believe that if I am going to share my life with animals, those animals deserve the best life I can give them; but so much of the rhetoric about animal rights seems to come from a place I do not agree with. For example, if I brush my dog (or pet angora rabbit or whatever) and use the fiber to spin yarn, am I exploiting the animal? He needs to be brushed anyway (heck, he enjoys it!), so why not make something with the fiber? To me it seems like win-win. But enough....

Anyway, thank you so much for being so positive and non-judgemental, so compassionate. You have really helped me feel at home with all of it.

teryll said...

Some friends and I were discussing this very subject last night, "the judgmental" class of people who believe they are better than you because they are vegetarian, vegan, or whatever other lifestyle. Attitudes are just as harmful, they poison spirits and cause unnecessary pain and hurt. The goals really are the same, I think, just different paths or avenues.

Anonymous said...

You know, I think this is a horrible epidemic in this country. Feeling as though we can publicly humiliate others because we are "better than them". . . it doesn't make sense!

But you know, I love that you don't push your lifestyle into others people's faces. You're just so good about explaining why this is better, and being encouraging and easy to lisen to. You're a very good role model, Christina, and I'm so glad that you're out there and getting your message out. Let's face it, soon enough those "Skinny Bitch" girls are going to be out of style again, once America decides it doesn't like to be bullied, but you and people like you will still be around because of your encouraging manner, and friendly demeanor.

Luke said...


Barbara Allen Moore said...

Greetings Christina! Hmmmmm...judgementalism. I have a favorite author J.D. Robb who writes mysteries placed in the future. In her world soy dog stands and soy fries are sitting on street corners in New York, soy drinks, grain coffee, and soy chips are found in vending machines. Everything is put in the recycler, there is no trash. Guns are in private collections only even law officers don't carry guns. But the main character Eve is a meat eater, she drinks real coffee from coffee beans and drinks pepsi and has a chocolate candy stash. Her sidekick is totally vegan and drools over soy dogs which she must have whenever she sees a vender. These are two women who are friends and co-workers and if they argue its over other things not who's a meat eater and who's not. Life is full of other challenges besides who eats what. Recently I was at a health food shop and I asked the associate about macrobiotics. Since I have leukemia I wanted her take on the possibilty of dietary changes. She replied that she heard it was a way of eating that makes you physically weak, kinda sleepy and tired even passive. Well she has never met you has she? I left quickly. She was a proponent of healthy eating but not that odd kind. So I continue to research and look for answers. Nothing comes from my doctor but the use of the particular drug. Is it working? Yes. But whats it doing to me? Why so I need to take it the rest of my life? Why is it not killing or removing the cause of the leukemia? Isn't that what it should do? All I know is that I've been poisoned by chemicals at some time in my life and that has caused the mutation. Right now all my blood counts are a bit low but now causing a need for change in treatment. What does that mean? What is normal for me may not be "in the normal range". Its all confusing and frustrating. I think that I went to live in Tennessee and found you on their PBS station because this time in my life was coming and you were giving me imformation I'd need in my future. Thanks again. We love your recipes and your show.


Kristen's Raw said...

Just wanted to say that I love your show :)

Kathy said...

You are so perfect at this, Christina! I can't tell you how often my husband hears the words, "Well, Christina says..." And when I shop, it's so funny, I'm putting stuff in my cart and thinking, "Would Christina buy that?" I mean, we've never met, but I just like you so much because you ARE so good at what you do! And it makes me want to change. I remember the first time I watched your show. You said something about giving up the sweets, etc, etc, etc... And then said something about how hard it can be. From that moment, I adored you, because you acknowledge that it's difficult to change, and then so lovingly present what is actually much better for us.

You really make this whole thing attractive. And I NEVER thought I'd get this far. You catch more flies with honey (as long as it's organically produced, otherwise, I'm sure we can change that to "agave nectar") than with vinegar (although, you do a pretty good job of catching people with all the creative uses for different vinegars you present, too!), and you are just so good at it!

A note from the Publisher. said...


My husband and I just found your show about a month ago when we started receiving the new PBS stations in our area. We love your show!

Your recipes are appealing and appetizing. We are both astounded by your knowledge of food and why it is good for you.

What is interesting to me is that I've been reading a book called The China Study that has some of the same information in it that we've learned from you. One of the problems that I found with that book is that he doesn't address the organic or GMO foods.

We have decided to try the vegan diet because we want to be healthy and we want to teach our children to be healthy. We had already cut out high fructose corn syrup and aspertame from our diets. And we stopped eating out at fast food establishments. We've almost quit eating out at all because when we cook at home, we can control what we put in our bodies!

Over Memorial Day weekend we were at a local wholesale food club and loaded our cart with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. We decided to give the vegetarian diet a go. People were staring at our selections. I thought this was funny because the guy who checked out in front of up purchased $700 dollars of meat and no one looked at him strangely. Oh well. It will be worth it if we get healthy and lose weight and more importantly teach our children how to eat healthy.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us! Thanks for the great recipes. I was wondering how I was going to enjoy desserts without eggs and dairy but you have some phenomenal desserts that I can't wait to try.

I'm glad that we found you!
Amy Greenwood, Louisiana